'Residencia' a relevant legal legacy

Buddy Gomez -- Cyberbuddy

Posted at Dec 09 2019 12:35 AM

Let us have a little bit of history and then a leap into a future that will be coming to the fore as this incumbent government administration ends another era in the seemingly serial travails of the Philippines.

“Residencia” is a Spanish colonial policy regarding the supervision of official conduct  and  performance of appointed Governors General  in  the Crown’s  far-flung empire, at the end of one’s term of office. It was a tool for judicial review of a just-concluded performance. It has been  practiced in Spanish Philippines almost since the founding of Manila.  

“Residencia” is mandated by the Spanish Crown over the acts of a Governor General before he is allowed to depart from the country of his last assignment. Sometimes, a new replacement, the successor appointee is himself assigned to conduct  the investigation of his immediate predecessor.  

I suppose they called it ‘Residencia,” obviously literally meaning ‘residence,’ because it is a royal requirement that the out-going official  “stays put” and remains ‘in house’ while he is, truly, investigated for potential malfeasance or misfeasance while in office. A  process of securing ‘clearance,’ as it were.  Call it a ‘Good Conduct’ pass.

There is  a most benign form of “residencia” in the Philippines today, if I may interpret it thus. It is the “Clearance” document that any government functionary must secure if he is to receive any benefits, or in the least, not be beset by unresolved  issues, when terminating his government service. At least that is  what  I understood to be the practice when I left my brief stint as an employee of the Republic.

If it has not yet seen an academic inquiry for theses purposes, in acquiring an Master’s or even a Doctoral degree, the subject of “Residencia” is a worthwhile subject to enhance useful erudition. From the beginnings of the Royal edict itself and its applications to the Philippines; to a litany of Governors General who were found guilty of anomalies; the penalties meted as well as a delineation of the nefarious acts. Don’t you think so?

Maybe the gifted historian Ambeth Ocampo can find the time to regale his legion of readers and admirers with an article or two about sensational examples of “Residencia” in Philippine history. (I did not know until recently that Ambeth’s Dad and Uncle were my fellow Capitol/QC Jaycees, somewhat of ancient history for old farts like me. Also  were Donnie Pangilinan--dad of Senator Kiko, Angie King, Butz Aquino and Joe Concepcion, among many, many others.)

Looking back into the not-too-distant past, the Philippines did attempt to revive  the “Residencia”  concept, hoping to apply judicial review over the performance of a previous administration’s long litany of alleged public crimes.    

This was the  creation of a  “Truth Commission” by President Benigno Aquino III, (PNoy).  Remember? Unfortunately, its  intent was obstructed by a Supreme Court that had been previously packed  by the personal appointees of the very government head sought to be  investigated. The Commission  would have been headed by former Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr. plus an array of  reputable legal luminaries as members.

President PNoy’s very first  official mandate was Executive Order No.1, signed on July 29,  2010. Its objective was to probe alleged corruption and the many controversial cases under former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA/Arroyo).  The GMA Supreme Court, then headed by the late disgraced Chief Justice Renato Corona, declared  PNoy’s E.O.No. 1 unconstitutional, voting 10-5 just before 2010 ended.

I recall that it was Congressman Edcel Lagman and another private individual who petitioned the Supreme Court. The majority ruled that the Executive Order violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution because “it singles out investigation  of graft and  corrupt practices in the previous administration.”

There is a prevailing commentary that by the time incumbent President  Duterte departs from office, he shall have appointed all but two of the entire Supreme Court. On the other hand,  the  entire composition of the Supreme Court, when E.O. No. 1 was declared unconstitutional, GMA  had personally appointed all, but one! She had named 14 justices during her 9-year stay in power, having removed President Joseph Estrada by an Army-backed uprising.  All but one of the entire Court. And  that  one, being the appointment of Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, PNoy’s first appointment to the Supreme Court.

I recall it was spoken of at that time, even if the EO were amended to included earlier administrations beyond GMA’s, her Supreme Court would still have found other reasons to thwart the objectives. The Aquino administration did not pursue an appeal. The Supreme Court spokesperson, rejecting that the Arroyo appointees ruled to protect her from investigations, said that “The Justices resolved the case according to what they viewed was based on the law.”

Thus, death came upon the “Philippine Truth Commission.”  The “Residencia” was torched down! The thieves continue to flagrantly flaunt the fruits of a felonious past!  And  is that not because we as a people provide an apparent complicity by inaction and passive toleration? Truth abounds abundantly but alas they fall into fallow.

When our once vibrantly functioning democracy returns, truth with whatever pain it comes must be venerated once more. The lead must  be espoused and practiced  not only by the very government that supposedly represents  the best interests of the people but by the people themselves, as individuals and as communities. Truth is a fundamental requirement and  a foundation of democracy. There has got to be a demand and an uprising for the resurgence Truth in the life of the nation if democracy is to survive.   

When the Duterte dispensation ends, there will an opportunity for the existential need of revisiting  “Residencia” and the Truth.  What ought we do with this opportunity?
That the Filipino is a forgiving human specie laden by self-immolating short memories, is unquestionably also a bane of the peoples’ war against public venality and the war against poverty. We can no longer afford to just forget and to forgive. An abused populace must now exact its  ‘pound of flesh’ from the malefactors of the national patrimony.

The Filipino psyche and paradigm  must  change. This, a challenge to emerging national  leadership, must be declared quintessential, barring no other!  Retribution, redress and reform  based upon ethics and morality ought to silence, once and for all, self-serving cries of victimhood, of vengeance and vindictiveness. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Tomas 'Buddy' Gomez III began his professional media career in ABS-CBN's (previously Chronicle Broadcasting Network) DZQL-Radio Reloj in 1957, after which he spent 25 years with the Ayala Group.

In 1986, the then Pres. Cory Aquino appointed him Consul General to Hawaii and later served as her Press Secretary.

During the Ramos administration, he was chairman and president of state-owned IBC-13 Network.

After government service, he became an ‘OFW’ in the U.S., working as front-desk clerk and then assistant general manager of a hotel. He also worked as a furniture and antique restoration specialist.

He is now retired and lives in San Antonio, Texas.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.